Archive for the ‘English - general issues’ Category

Banking on English proficiency

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Excited pupils playing a game of charades at the Finco Reads Activity Fair held in SK Taman Maluri in Kuala Lumpur.

IT was a Saturday morning but SK Taman Maluri, Kuala Lumpur, was bustling with activity.

“I was so excited that I woke up early today!” said Year Four pupil Adreen Awad during the Finco Reads Activity Fair.

“It was special because we got to work with our friends. I loved the charades’ station. We learned new words and how to use them, ” he added.

The Finco Reads Activity Fair was sponsored and assisted by Finco, an acronym for Financial Industry Collective Outreach. Finco is a collaboration made up of over 130 financial institutions under seven financial industry associations in Malaysia with the support of Bank Negara Malaysia.

The fair comes under Finco’s flagship reading programme. Finco Reads is developed to make reading in English more engaging for primary school pupils.

The fair at SK Taman Maluri is the second of over 30 more to be carried out in the peninsula before the school term ends for the year.

With volunteers from Bank of America and Bangkok Bank assisting with different activity stations, pupils were thrilled to engage with new faces.

Year Four pupil Amira Qaireena Noorizal was happy that everyone was divided into groups named after comic superheroes.

“I was in the Aquaman group!” said Amira Qaireena.

“The programme taught English in a fun way. I learned new words. There was this game where we had to whisper a message to pass it on. It taught us how to listen carefully so that we do not pass on the wrong information, ” she said.

Classmate Muhammad Umar Rahim said that he improved his vocabulary and improved his command on English.

“It’s fun learning with friends. Definitely worth spending my Saturday morning at school!”

Bangsar and Pudu assistant district education officer Siti Hawa Ahmad, who launched the fair, commended the programme saying that it is in line with the Highly Immersive Programme.

“What’s being carried out excites the pupils. Pupils get to experience a learning environment that’s different from the class environment.

“They gain knowledge and real world experience. Also, what they are doing relates to their syllabus.

“This programme cultivates 21st century learning skills. More importantly, it is fun learning. Pupils are happy and they are keen to try out the activities. It is a good enrichment programme to improve the usage of the language, ” she added.

Also present at the event was Finco programme director Tham Ying Yee.

“What we’re trying to do is get outsiders involved in schools. The sense that we get is many corporations are keen to help but just don’t know how to.

“Finco serves as a bridge between these organisations and the schools.

“We also encourage community participation so that pupils can actually practise using English in a non-artificial manner. They not only learn English in class, but also by actually talking to a stranger in the language, ” she said.

SK Taman Maluri was given a grant of RM1,000 to carry out the programme, said the school discipline and English teacher Maureen Dellow.

“We were encouraged to use it on things that can be reused in the future and we decided to paint corridors with floor games.

“The games are designed for all levels of proficiency and they will also be beneficial to future pupils who enrol in this school, ” she said.

Headmaster Zunnurin Abdul Aziz stressed that English is an important language when venturing into higher education.

“If anyone can master a language other than his mother tongue, it is always a plus factor. A lot of reading and research materials are in English. So if they cannot master the language, then it will be a loss, ” he added.

Finco Reads was piloted in 28 schools in Sabah in 2017. It is now in 20 schools in Johor and 20 schools in the Klang Valley.

The programme will be rolled out in another five states beginning early next year.

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Better English for a Better Future

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

When it comes to learning English, Cambridge English For Life (CEFL) has been a trusted brand all across Malaysia since 2001. They are well known for having the largest network of language centres (with nearly 70 centres nationwide) and delivering high quality and accredited English language courses. They have continually built on a legacy of excellence by employing innovative learning techniques designed to build confidence and to achieve success.

Better English, better future.

A class for everyone

CEFL offers courses for students as young as four years old through adults. Classes are flexible to accommodate advanced learners as well as students who need extra attention to master the language. Students first take a placement test to determine which course is best suited for them, because classes are based on proficiency, not age. This way, whether a student is ahead of his peers or struggling to keep up, CEFL can help him or her excel.

Serious Results, Serious Fun

CEFL maintains a reputation of academic excellence, producing many students who score 100% in the world-renowned Cambridge English exams. All classes are aligned with the Cambridge Assessment English qualifications and students are encouraged to sit for the exams at the end of their courses.

CEFL offers practical learning in a friendly environment.

Proven methods

Renowned for teaching methods that produce optimum results, CEFL offers practical learning in a friendly environment. Their unique approach encourages a continuous progression with a clear and easy-to-follow path to improve English language skills.

Parents agree, as attested by Suraya Hanaifah, whose child is at CEFL Kota Damansara: “I chose CEFL because of their achievements and performance in making students excel in English communication skills. CEFL’s resources and teaching methods are very simple, straightforward and very easy to understand. They’re not complicated and this encourages my child to want to learn more.”

Visit  CEFL on Their Nationwide Open Day.

CEFL will once again be hosting their much-awaited annual Nationwide Open Day on Oct 19 and 20 in all centres throughout Malaysia. Prospective students and their parents are welcome on this festive day to experience CEFL and explore the many ways their local centre can help anyone and everyone improve their proficiency and fluency and gain confidence in English. The Open Day is a great opportunity for anyone considering enrolling in any of CEFL’s quality courses in 2020 and to come down to the centre for a friendly chat with the staff.

The theme this year is ‘Environmental English’. All students who sign up for 2020 courses are eligible to receive this complimentary programme. Additionally, students who enrol during the Open Days stand a chance to win attractive prizes in CEFL’s lucky draws. Other promotions include free placement tests, material fee waivers and much more.

For more information, visit to locate the CEFL centre near you.

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Incentives for retired English teachers

Monday, October 7th, 2019

Maszlee (seated, third from right) and Amin (seated, third from left) smiles for a group photo with retired English language teachers who volunteered for the Highly Immersive Programme (HIP) Mentor pilot project. — Bernama

STARTING next year, the Education Ministry will look at providing incentives, such as allowances, to retired English language teachers who take part in the ministry’s Highly Immersive Programme (HIP) in schools.

Known as HIP Mentor, the programme brings in retired English language teachers on a voluntary basis.

A HIP Mentor pilot project was conducted for three months from June to September, aimed at increasing the usage of English for activities outside the classroom.

It involved 28 retired teachers in 27 schools across eight states in the country.

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik said he will request the Government to provide these teachers with incentives.

“Although it’s done voluntarily, these teachers should be awarded accordingly.

“We will expand this programme to (more) schools across the country next year.

“The English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC) is still studying the outcome and how many schools to expand it to.

“An official report is being prepared but the unofficial report I received is very impressive and I am in awe of the contribution and energy of these retired teachers,” he told reporters after presenting certificates of appreciation to the retired teachers who volunteered for the pilot project.

The ELTC, which falls under the ministry, was tasked with implementing the HIP Mentor pilot project.

In the three months, Maszlee said the teachers managed to involve all students in their English activities.

“Students’ level of confidence in speaking and writing in English also improved.

“We hope more retired English language teachers will come forward to be mentors.

“The HIP Mentor programme epitomises the true passion of educators regardless of age.

“I am astonished that we have volunteers aged from 60 to 83,” he added.

Maszlee said the goal of the programme is for Malaysian students to be proficient and to communicate confidently in the English language.

“Transformation must take place in the classroom.

“Students must be exposed to various English language activities that will spur their interest and create love for the language.

“Encourage students to speak the language through fun activities and to use English during lessons.

“School heads are the catalyst in spearheading (the programme) at the school level by creating conducive environments for change to take place as well as encouraging teachers, and engaging parents and the community to contribute towards the successful implementation of the HIP Mentor programme,” he said.

Still teaching at 83

Sunday, October 6th, 2019
Dr Maszlee Malik (right) greeting the HIP mentors and school principals at the certificates of appreciation award ceremony. (NSTP/AIZUDDIN SAAD.)

WHILE we hear many teachers are leaving the profession, we cannot say the same for Datin Siti Hendon Abdullah Bajrai. At the age of 83, she is still enthusiastic about teaching and learning.

She volunteered to join the Highly Immersive Programme Mentor (HIP Mentor) – a programme by Ministry of Educationto that engage retired English language lecturers or teachers who are willing to assist primary or secondary schools with English language activities on a voluntary basis.

She has also recently graduated from Unitar International University obtaining her Master’s Degree in early childhood education.

Siti Hendon was one of the 28 HIP mentors awarded with certificates of appreciation by Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik at the Perdana Leadership Foundation recently.

The pilot programme was conducted at 27 selected schools in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Perak, Sarawak and Sabah from July until September.

“Teaching kids today is not the same as teaching the kids in the 80’s, which is why I want to keep learning and upskill my teaching methodology,” said Siti Hendon who was a mentor at Sekolah Kebangsaan Kampung Tunku, Petaling Jaya.

With decades of experience in teaching English, Siti Hendon believes that reading is key to learning.

Datin Siti Hendon Abdullah Bajrai

“During my sessions, I purposely chose to focus on kids who can’t read. I started by introducing them to nursery rhymes to help the pupils to recognise different rhythms, rhymes and sounds. After that, I started to familiarise them with alphabets then guided reading.

“When I was young, I didn’t have a good command of English as well but, I forced myself to read. With proper instruction and motivation, it is not impossible to attract pupils to learn and love English,” she added.

“It is quite hard to gauge the pupils’ progress in reading within two months’ time. However, I noticed that there is a change in their learning attitude. The kids seem to enjoy English classes more,” she said.

Having retired as a lecturer in her 50’s, mentor Teen Pek Chin, 72, said the reason she joined HIP Mentor programme is because she missed classroom interactions.

“When I first came to know about it, I decided to give it a try. I thought that this would be a refreshing experience. Through this programme, I would like to share my knowledge and experience to the pupils.

“Despite this being my first time teaching in primary school, I find the experience very enlightening. Teaching the kids is not like giving lectures to adults. They are very active and you have to know how to engage them with the lessons.

“I like doing fun activities with the kids. Although some of them struggle to write and read, they love singing along to the songs I played I the classroom. Along the way, I helped them with the pronunciation,” said Teen who volunteered at Sekolah Kebangsaan Perdana Jaya, Selangor.

During the event, Maszlee commended the mentors’ effort serving as volunteers and partnering with schools to create the English language rich environment in the pilot programme.

“The HIP mentors programme epitomises the true passion of educators regardless of age. I am absolutely astonished that our volunteers are of 60 to 83 years old. All of the mentors are exemplary educationists who have proven that age is only a figure.

“The success of the HIP Mentors programme requires the synergy of various stakeholders, working together harmoniously towards a unison goal. The goal is for our Malaysia students to be proficient in English and to communicate confidently using the language.

“Students must be exposed to various types of English language activities and use English during lessons. Immerse students in the language and encourage them to use English in different contexts and situations,” said Maszlee.

HIP was introduced by the Ministry of Education (MoE) in 2016 with the aim to create a highly immersive, language-rich environment that promotes the use of English in school. Through HIP, students are exposed to the English Language through a varietyof activities and have vast opportunities to use the language

By Murniati Abu Karim .


Improving standard of English

Friday, October 4th, 2019

English is the most widely spoken language in the world with 1.121 billion speakers, of which 743 million are non-native speakers. More than half of internet content and technical and scientific periodicals are in English. Unfortunately, much of the debate over English in Malaysia has been conducted in a binary manner: Malay versus non-Malay, rural versus urban and middle-class versus poor. But studies have shown that most Malaysians appreciate the importance of English.

The many reversals of policies suggest that the diversity of Malaysian schools makes it challenging to uniformly implement changes or reforms.

The Teaching of Science and Maths in English (PPSMI) was introduced in 2003, but Chinese schools were allowed to continue teaching the subjects in Chinese in 2005.

Then, a reversal was announced in 2009 after studies showed rural schools performing disproportionately worse in English-language subjects compared with urban schools owing to a lack of fluency among teachers and students alike.

In January 2016, the Dual-Language Programme was implemented, allowing schools that met certain requirements to teach mathematics and science in English. I believe the DLP is best suited for the diverse reality and capacity of Malaysian schools and is in line with the recognition for greater autonomy and decentralisation of the education system.

Now, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said the government is studying the possible return of PPSMI. As Selangor’s state executive councillor for education from 2014 to 2018, I had very little influence over, or ability to help, the schools in our state, partly due to the political discrimination by the previous government but also because of the centralised reality of our education system.

However, decentralisation shouldn’t be about turning control of schools from one set of politicians to another or letting schools drift on their own. Rather, it is about having a common set of goals and values, yet letting different schools move at their own pace, depending on their local conditions, and ensuring that the proper oversights are in place.

Recently, I have been tasked with overseeing education on the Federal Territories Minister’s Council. As part of that responsibility, I have started visiting a number of schools in our capital, starting with my constituency Setiawangsa.

The condition of the facilities in some schools, unfortunately, is very poor. Oftentimes, they have to wait for funds from the Education Ministry to make repairs or replacements.

There is no way for us to improve English and education without investing in proper infrastructure and technology.

The people, as taxpayers, have to be willing to pay for it. In 2018, Vietnam, for instance, spent 5.8pc (US$13.9 billion) of its gross domestic product on education, the highest percentage in Southeast Asia. In contrast, the amount spent by Malaysia on education has been on a downward trend since 2011, dropping annually from 5.8pc of GDP to 4.7pc by 2017.

Nevertheless, the “software” side of the English dilemma cannot be neglected.

We need to work on improving critical thinking, boosting the quality of teachers and easing their non-teaching workload. Education Minister Maszlee Malik’s work in this area has been admirable.

For instance, teachers now no longer have to write acquisitions in relation to the Textbook Loan Scheme (SPBT), and schools with internet access can now record pupil attendance online.

But changing mindsets is a little more difficult.

There have been far too many incidents in national schools of minority students being subjected to unnecessary racial and religious pressures.

We cannot expect minority parents to shift their children to national schools if their faith and culture are going to be denigrated, but we also cannot let identity politics and culture wars spread to our schools. The recent khat controversy is a case in point. As a matter of principle, I believe exposing students to part of our national heritage should not be an issue, but decades of distrust has polarised the debate to a great extent.

Similarly, there have been reports that students in schools implementing the DLP are not being tested because we are supposed to shift away from being exam-oriented.

However, “not exam-oriented” should not and does not mean no examinations at all. After all, the selling point of the DLP is to allow children who are capable of doing science and maths in English to do so. Culturally, parents and teachers have to stop viewing and treating these exams as markers of intelligence, but rather, as signposts of progress, or what the student needs to improve on.

It is always good to give parents, students and teachers more choice, but personally, I decided to send my son to a national school.

However, I also understand and respect the roles that the other streams play.

The decision, ultimately, is in the hands of the government, which must be mindful of the public’s opinions and those of stakeholders.

In the meantime, the focus should be on improving the existing frameworks. We must have clearly defined goals on where we want to go in improving English.

There can be no good educational outcomes without the efforts of the teachers, academics and administrators — often a thankless job.

We should and do expect a lot from them, but they likewise should be honoured and compensated accordingly. We have had decades of top-down, poorly-thought-out policies in relation to English and education as a whole being bulldozed through, and it has not served us well.

I return to the example of Vietnam. It went from emphasising Mandarin during its domination under China to French, Russian and then English after 1986.

As the US-China trade war rages, Vietnam is poised to become a key beneficiary. Foreign direct investment in Vietnam between January and May this year has seen a year-on-year increase of 69.1pc while corporations such as Samsung, Olympus, Nike, Ikea and Apple are increasing the portion of their items sourced from Vietnam or transferring their manufacturing operations there. This could not happen if Vietnam did not have a ready supply of good human capital.

We can draw a number of lessons from Vietnam’s experience. Despite its challenging circumstances, it maintained its fierce will for freedom as well as its culture and language.

It was also willing to reverse itself and try new approaches several times, but always kept its eye on the goal of strengthening itself and maintaining its independence. We must also realise that these things take time. Broadly, Vietnam’s shift to English began 33 years ago and is still ongoing.

Malaysians cannot expect overnight results without time, hard work, patience and sacrifice.

Of course, Malaysia is not Vietnam. We are not a seemingly homogenous country, and we do not, and hopefully never will, live under a one-party state. However, it would be wrong to assume that autocratic countries have an advantage over democracies like us, or that they will do better in the long run.

Indeed, worldwide, the achievements of democracies are more impressive, precisely because they are harder to bring about.

Improving the standard of English in Malaysia and education across the board is something that cannot be brought about without the will of the people.

Let us also not forget that education is not just about seizing gross materialistic gains.

Malaysia’s education must not lose its human face and humanistic purposes of bringing up men and women who bring goodness to their families, communities and countries.

By: Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad

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Teaching English goes future forward

Monday, September 16th, 2019

Dr Airil Haimi (lefft, seated on the desk) with the VR goggles on his head together with several of his team members who have been trying to bring innovative practices into English teaching, using modern media platforms.

MUCH has been said about the Fourth Industrial Revolution or 4IR but much more needs to be done on the ground, especially in the field of education in the Malaysian setting.

Many are still unable to see that the very nature of the teaching and learning process is changing, what more with the arrival of Generation Alpha – the next generation of students born entirely within the 21st century.

To complicate things further as we cross into the era of 4IR, the field of education has also moved into the Education 5.0 stage. As the world prepares to usher in year 2020, our national education system must address the challenges of globalisation and deal with changes in computer and telecommunications technologies sparked by 4IR ‘disruptions’.

At the Academy of Language Studies of the Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Perak branch in Bandar Seri Iskandar, its head of Centre of Studies decided to become an adopter of a not-so-new technology, hoping to take the teaching and learning of English into the 21st century.

“The name of our project is ‘English Language Simulations Augmented with 360° spherical videos’. We codenamed it ELSA 360°-Videos, because it’s cuter,” said Dr Airil Haimi Mohd Adnan, the learning technologist and project manager.

Together with his young team of English lecturers – Muhamad Khairul, Muhammad Anwar, Nurul Nadiah and Ahmad Ariffuddin – they have been hard at work trying to bring innovative practices into English teaching, using modern media platforms.

“The problem is that you need money to be an early adopter of learning technologies, and you need to constantly reskill and upskill yourself because what is high-end today might be old-tech next month or next year,” said Airil Haimi.

The primary challenge that he faces is the limited time to teach critical language skills to degree level students, who also need to contend with their specialist core subjects.

“So, when 360° video cameras became more mainstream and not too expensive, I saved for a few months to buy one online and to start the ELSA 360°-Videos project,” he added.

Nevertheless, applying 360° or spherical video technology to the teaching of English for Professional and Workplace Interactions was not as straightforward as he thought. It took him six months of learning about 360° video technology and the methods of using this effectively in lesson delivery.

“You don’t want to do something just for the sake of doing it, right? But I’m happy to report that many educators have shared positive results on using 360° videos to teach.

“Here on campus, our undergraduates love being immersed and having the feeling of ‘being in’ actual meeting rooms and ‘joining in’ simulated workplace discussions,” he said.

360° or spherical video technology has the distinctive advantage of immersing learners and helping them to feel as if they are actually part of whatever is happening on screen. With three DOFs or Degrees of Freedom, learners can look around the meeting room or office space and see everything that is happening around them.

For degree level students who have limited contact hours to learn English for Professional and Workplace Interactions, this technology bridges the gap between what they could only imagine, and what they can actually see and feel.

With three DOFs, seeing how office mates talk to each other, respond, reciprocate and share ideas while focusing also on their facial and bodily gestures really make a difference in the learning of difficult English skills.

Nur Alia, appreciates the fact that 360° videos technology can help her friends who are not proficient in English to revise and learn on their own.

“My friends who cannot grasp the points in class, can learn while lounging on their beds and raise their English levels on their own,” she said.

For Nurul Liyana, another early user of ELSA 360°-Videos: “I love that I can learn wherever and whenever because the lecturer posted all the 360° videos on YouTube. “So, when we go to class, we just practice a bit then we can do the tests.”

In the next stage of the ELSA 360°-Videos project, Airil and his team are trying to get students to invest in cheap Virtual Reality or VR goggles using their smartphones to power the VR screens.

He is also planning to set up a content development lab focusing on future learning technologies aptly called “Future Learning Initiatives” Lab or FLI Lab.

“When it comes to technology, the problem is always money. True, great teaching ideas don’t need money but to make those ideas real, then dreamers like us have to start saving money to gain access to future learning technologies.

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Addressing the challenges in teaching English

Saturday, September 14th, 2019
Conference particpants listening to a talk on practical and innovative ways in teaching and learning the English language.

MUCH have been said about the poor grasp of English among students in Malaysian primary and secondary schools. And often times, the low level of proficiency in English language are associated with teachers’ ability and competency to teach the subject.

Teaching English is not without its challenges — especially in the rural or remote areas of the country — where the lack of opportunities to use the language in a relevant manner and lack of interest among students are stumbling blocks to helping students acquire language skills.

The changing education landscape too, with the infusion of technology in the teaching and learning process, have also brought about rapid changes in teaching methodologies which some teachers struggle to keep up with.

According to Associate Professor Dr Hanita Hassan, chair of the Language Academy at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s (UTM) Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, it is important for teachers to note that teaching is not stagnant but dynamic.

“Teaching and learning as a second language have seen tremendous changes in a few decades. Changes are inevitable. The question is, are teachers ready to embrace the changes?,” she asked when addressing 500 English language teachers in a plenary session at the 10th Johor State English Language Conference held in Johor Baru last month.

The changes, she said, resulted in multiple persectives in the teaching and learning of English as a second language, starting off with the grammar translation method, which focuses on the rules of the language rather than oral competency.

Realising the drawbacks of over-emphasising grammar rules, Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) was then introduced in the 1970s which stresses the ability to communicate rather than accuracy.

“CLT is the cornerstone of the change in method of second language teaching where we witness the derivation of task-based, active and collaborative learning. English as a second language was then overwhelmed with HOTS (or Higher Order Thinking Skills) where students are expected to be able to analyse, synthesise and evaluate, not merely remember and memorise what was taught in class.

“HOTS was followed by blended learning, the 21st century learning mode where teachers are expected to complement face-to-face classroom teaching with the use of technology. The latest direction of English language reform is the introduction of CEFR (the Common European Framework of Reference) in 2015 which helped teachers to focus more on what students can do rather than what they cannot in terms of language skills,” said Hanita.

Despite the long list of methods, she said teachers should not feel pressured to use any particular one based on directives but rather choose a method or a blend of methods that suits their students needs and enable the delivery of the lesson objectives.

“There are no wrongs or rights. The methods may be various as long as they achieve the objectives. If your students cannot do HOTS, for example, choose a different way to teach them. The aim should be to ensure they grasp the vocabulary, learn communication skills and are motivated. Aim for something achievable. Be creative,” she remarked.

“Once students learn the language skills, they will be able to answer exam questions,” she added.

Associate Professor Dr Hariharan N. Krishnasamy, who is a senior lecturer at the School of Education and Modern Languages, College of Arts and Sciences, Universiti Utara Malaysia, said teachers must always be ready to learn, unlearn and relearn to keep up with teaching methods or be prepared for very challenging times in the classroom.

“There are two things we must accept. The first is that teaching English as a second language, especially in the rural areas, is tough. In many of these homes, they hardly use English. They lack the opportunity and the motivation to use English outside the classroom.

“Another challenge is that we are in rapidly changing times. For example, not many teachers are comfortable letting go of control. This thinking is very traditional and does not appeal to the current generation of students. Students these days are used to learning on their own terms, including via the computer. When you impose methods they are not comfortable with, they may not respond as expected,” he said.

This, he said, can be frustrating for teachers.

“Some teachers can be very hardworking but their methods do not appeal to students or meet students’ expectations. If teachers lack techno-literacy which is a tool for teaching and learning, and techno-literacy is higher among students, teachers could feel threatened. The issue of respect then comes in.

“So the teacher has to continually improve to be confident and acquire skills and knowledge to teach students. What is new now may be outdated tomorrow,” Hariharan pointed out.

He added that teachers have to understand where the students come from and tailor lessons accordingly.

“If they like music, use music to teach English. This has been effective to Orang Asli children, as shown in UUM’s research. They respond very positively to music and dancing. Once we capture their attention, it becomes easier to get them to learn on their own. They will try to learn as the motivation comes from within. They do it because they want to do it.

“If you use textbooks far removed from their lives, they will give up. They are already weak in English so don’t set standards that are too high,” he said.

Play is an important element in learning and it is an effective way to teach English, said Dr Farhana Diana Deris, a senior lecturer at Language Academy at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s (UTM) Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities.

“Learning English as a second language can sometimes be frustrating. Board games can be a useful and ready asset for the ESL (English as Second Language) classroom, a change from the normal routine,” she said.

With the right board game, said Farhana, students have the opportunity to practise language skills as well as soft skills such as teamwork and leadership, depending on the roles they take on when playing.

“Games are highly motivating since they are amusing and challenging at the same time. They also encourage students to employ meaningful and useful language in real contexts. Discussion, negotiation and cooperation are all part of gameplay,” she said.

Farhana illustrated how this was done by having participants of her workshop get into groups and play a game called Werewolves of Millers Hollow.

The game takes place in a small village which is terrorised by werewolves. The objective of the game is to suss out who the werewolves are before the village is wiped out.

“In any board game, there is always the briefing part with lesson objectives and teaching of language expressions. Once the game is completed, the teacher will highlight the expressions and vocabularies in context,” she said.

JELTA president Vincent D’Silva said the conference — carrying the theme Multiple Perspectives in the Teaching and Learning of English as a Second Language — served as a suitable platform for English Language instructors to share practical and innovative ways in teaching and learning the language.

By Rozana Sani.

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ELT equip students with communication skills to excel

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: English Language Teaching (ELT) professionals play a crucial role in equipping students with the necessary communication skills to excel in the workplace.

Sabah Minister of Education and Innovation, Datuk Dr Yusof Yacob said ELT professionals therefore need a certain degree of autonomy in exercising their professional judgment about what and how to teach.

In his forward address on the 6th Malaysian International Conference on Academic Strategies in English Language Teaching (My_CASELT) 2019 and the 3rd Language Invention, Innovation & Design (LIID) Exposition 2019 to be held at the Pacific Sutera Hotel here on Aug 21 and 22, he said to produce innovative graduates, educators must be innovative too and in this global era, ELT professionals have a number of innovative tools at their disposal to enhance the teaching and learning process.

“It is imperative that they adopt a liberal mind-set that encourages exploration of novel ideas and out-of-the-box thinking when conducting classes, training, consultancy and research,” stressed Dr Yusof, who is co-Patron of My CASELT 2019.

“However, for teachers serving in rural areas, particularly in Sabah, they are faced with the challenge of implementing creative and innovative teaching methods with limited resources.”

They have to be extremely creative in their teaching methods to sustain the interest of millennial, he said.

“Malaysia’s vision to transform from a middle to high-income advanced nation is heavily dependent on the ability of its people to initiate, employ and exploit innovative ideas to drive and sustain economic growth,” he said, adding this requires a shift towards work processes that utilise technology and new practices to produce goods and services at lower costs and minimal time.

“Consequently, one of the initiatives in the Malaysian Education Blueprint is the development of an Innovation Ecosystem which seeks to equip graduates with the aspiration and ability to come up with new, creative ways of doing things and solving problems,” he said.

Dr Yusof said graduates can no longer be job seekers, instead they should be job creators in a global village, where English is the lingua franca.

Proficiency in English is no longer an option but a necessity, he said, adding that greater teacher empowerment could possibly result in better learning outcomes.

He expressed his confidence that the MY CASELT will provide the appropriate platform for teachers, researchers, industry and stakeholders to identify issues, propose ideas and set strategies to transform and enhance the education system in Malaysia.

The My_ASELT 2019 and LIID 2019 will be organised by Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), through Akademi Pengajian Bahasa (APB) or in English, the Academy of Language Studies Shah Alam and UiTM Sabah Branch.

The My_CASELT and LIID 2019 are unique and dedicated platforms for sharing current practices and new perspectives, said Vice Chancellor of UiTM Emeritus Professor Dr Mohd Azraai Kassim, who is also co-Patron of My_CASELT 2019.

This event provides opportunities for multi-disciplinary collaborations which will create impactful research and innovations for the world, he said, adding over the years, the conference served as a platform for global synergies across multilingual and multicultural language learning environments.

In the era of digital media, in a world without walls, where people are connected via social media, the role of English as a lingua franca has become even more prevalent, he stated.

“In addressing the increasing needs for cross-cultural communications, it is vital that ELT practitioners move in tandem with the development in the multi-ethnic, multilingual and multicultural global context.

“Being a centre of excellence, it is encouraging to see that the university is on track in positioning itself as a point of reference for the future,” he said.

He said with the themes of “Empowering ELT Professionals in a Globalised Environment” and “Empowering Practitioners’ Innovation in Language Teaching” for this year’s My_CASELT and LIID, respectively, the presenters and participants will have a unique and dedicated platform to share current practices and new perspectives with both scholars and practitioners.

”I believe that this event provides opportunities for multi-disciplinary collaborations which will create impactful research and innovations for the world,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rector of UiTM Sabah, Associate Professor Dr Hj Abdul Kadir Hj Rosline said the My_CASELT this year is significant in that it marks the first time this conference is held here in Sabah.

The collaboration between APB and UiTM Sabah has brought to fruition today’s conference as an avenue for language researchers and practitioners within the English Language Teaching (ELT) community from the Asian region and beyond to share expertise and forge professional connections, he said.

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English proficiency crucial in nation building

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: The education system must ensure that students are equipped with necessary skills including communication and English language proficiency to join the workforce and develop the nation.

Minister of Education and Innovation Datuk Dr. Yusof Yacob said education is in the forefront of all business and technological advances, and that Malaysia cannot afford to lag behind other countries particularly in the South East Asia region.

He asserted that graduates can no longer wait for jobs to come but instead, create jobs themselves and turn it into industries.

The Malaysian Education Blueprint 2015-2025, he added, has mooted the idea of an Innovation Ecosystem as one of the platforms to enhance the competency of future workforce, which was also a means to boost graduates’ marketability.

He further pointed out that Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir had stressed on the importance of teaching and learning English, giving English Language Teaching (ELT) professionals a fit in producing marketable graduates.

“He (Mahathir) also mentioned that proficiency in English can help generate more employment opportunities. Hence, the ability to master English is part and parcel of producing competitive graduates and the role of the ELT professionals cannot be disputed.

“No matter how good and skilled a person is, ideas remain as ideas if not communicated and utilized.

“English may be the lingua franca, but it is not our mother tongue. Thus, ELT professionals play a vital role in equipping students with essential communication skills to meet the needs of the industry,” he said.

His speech was delivered by assistant minister Jenifer Lasimbang during the opening of the 6th Malaysian International Conference on Academic Strategies in English Language Teaching (My_CASELT), and 3rd Language Invention, Innovation and Design (LIID) Exposition here Wednesday.

Dr. Yusof noted that the new generation of students presents a bigger challenge to educators as access to technological advances have turned traditional classroom into a dull and uninspiring place.

As such, he said educators have to be innovative while ELTprofessionals need to require autonomy in determining ways to connect with the new breed of learners.

“The use of novel ideas and out-of-the-box techniques should be encouraged and facilitated so that academic activities are lively and productive at both mental and emotional levels.

“Accordingly, empowering ELT professionals to use their discretion should be part of our academic agenda,” he said. The two-day event organized by MARA University of Technology (UiTM) Sabah Academy of Language Studies saw more than 120 local and international researchers presenting their research and showcasing their inventions and designs in ELT.

Themed ‘Empowering ELT professionals in a Globalised Environment’ and ‘Empowering Practitioners’ Innovation in Language Teaching’, it was aimed at providing platform for leading ELT experts to discuss and show their research findings on ELT.

According to UiTM vice chancellor Emeritus Prof. Ir. Dr. Mohd Azraai Kassim, it was critical as language fluency and effective communication abilities would enable individuals reach out better to the world.

Stressing on the vitality of language practitioners to move in tandem with today’s development, he said it is crucial to ensure that graduates have relevant knowledge and skills to take on future job challenges.

He added that practitioners need to rethink strategically and use their credentials to offer new learning experience and industry-relevant skills.

“It is also necessary that a lot of effort is put into exploring innovative learning and teaching resources and partnering with other institutions to provide fresh insights that will be of use to not only the academics and students, but more so the communities we serve.

“We must ensure that any new pedagogical thinking is complemented by continuous and innovative curriculum design, training and re-skilling so that no segment of the academic workforce is left behind.

“Hence, in the quest to strengthen students’ commands of English, I believe academics need to keep up with the latest teaching approaches and techniques to cater to the current and future generation of digital natives,” he said. His speech was delivered by deputy vice chancellor Industry, Community, Alumni and Entrepreneurship Network UiTM Prof. Dato’ Dr. Rahmat Mohamad.


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Forging cross-cultural connections, prospective networking via ELT

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: The English Language Teaching (ELT) forges closer cross-cultural connections and prospective networking and collaboration among people of different origins and nationalities.

Deputy Chief Minister cum Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew said cross-cultural connections, prospective networking and collaboration foster better understanding of the rich diversity of the cultures and customs of the people.

“In the era of digital media, the role of English as a lingua franca in promoting cross-border tourism cannot be underestimated,” she said at the conference dinner of the 6th Malaysian International Conference on Academic Strategies in English Language Teaching (My_CASELT) and the 3rd Language Invention, Innovation & Design (LIID) Exposition 2019 held at the Magellan Sutera Resort and Spa here Wednesday. Her speech was read by her assistant minister Assafal P. Alian.

“It is no exaggeration to say that one can sell a place without language. In order to promote places of interest to visitors, English the language for international communication has the power to introduce not only the place, but also the local languages and cultures to people from other regions and cultures,” she opined.

Liew also stressed that language education plays a vital role in promoting the diverse languages, cultures and customs of the various ethnic groups in Sabah.

On the dinner theme “Celebrating Multiculturalism through Education”, she said in order to showcase the multiculturalism of Sabah in the international level, networking and collaboration in the education domain, particularly research and publication across nations and cultures was quintessential.

“Language serves as a crucial tool to understand the cultures and customs of a community. In preserving the indigenous languages of the communities in the Asian region, there are still a number of local languages that are yet to be explored and studied in depth. Perhaps, research gaps such as this, can be considered for future research for language scholars and researchers.”

She also mentioned that Sabah is one of the most culturally diverse states in Malaysia, is home to more than 30 different ethnic groups who speak over 80 local dialects.

“Sabah is also rich in nature and wildlife, which has become a key tourist attraction to visitors from abroad. In 2019, our plan is to boost tourism activities on the East and West coasts of Sabah.

“In Kundasang, we have the famous Mount Kinabalu; in Sandakan, we have the orangutan sanctuaries; in Tawau we have the world’s tallest tropical tree; in Semporna we have world-class diving spots and in Lahad Datu, we have one of the oldest rainforests suitable for tourists who love adventures,” she said.

Meanwhile,, Rector of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Datuk Associate Professor Dr Haji Abdul Kadir Haji Rosline said academic discourse such as conference presentations and discussions enhance the effectiveness of English Language Teaching (ELT) in respective languages teaching and learning setting.

The theme for this year’s My_CASELT conference dinner is “Celebrating Multiculturalism through Education” with two possible interpretations.

The theme chosen reflects multiculturalism as manifested here in the gathering of academics, researchers, language educators and language teacher trainers within the community of ELT from various racial, linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

“It is like a melting pot which embodies the diverse cultures, traditions and values of individual participants. And tonight, through this conference, we are celebrating the cultural diversity and richness among us,” he stressed.

“Second, multiculturalism is also celebrated in English language education,” he said adding that adopting a liberal cultural stance in language education or in Kubota’s (2012) term, “liberal multiculturalism” requires them to accept, appreciate, respect and tolerate diverse cultures, customs and lifestyles which may be very different from our own cultures and values.

He said in teacher-student classroom interaction, language educators are exposed to learners’ different cultures and customs and vice-versa.

According to him, in the local multi-ethnic, multilingual, and multicultural society, the English language educator may be of Chinese ethnicity while the learner may come from the Malay ethnic group with different cultures, beliefs and lifestyles.

“In the second language classroom, language teachers often adopt a liberal stance towards multiculturalism and diversity. They embrace cultural differences, accept unfamiliar value systems and appreciate foreign customs and practices (Kubota, 2012). Thus, multiculturalism is celebrated in the ELT classroom,” he said.

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